Monday, 22 February 2010

The Top Ten British Thriller Writers from Headline author Matt Lynn

A founder of The Curzon Group of British thriller writers, Matt Lynn makes a personal selection of the ten best British thrillers:

One: The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope: Even though it was published in 1894, Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda remains as exciting as the day it first rolled off the presses. The story of a rather foppish young Englishman called Rudolf Rassendyll caught up in the palace and political intrigue of the imaginary state of Ruritania, it has conspiracies, mysteries and femme fatales galore. Much of the story admittedly may seem antique to modern readers – and it has more than a touch of the ripping yarn about it – but this book is the start of the action adventure genre. It tears off page one at a hundred miles an hour, and speeds up from there. After this book, thrillers had to be genuinely thrilling.

Two: The 39 Steps by John Buchan: It’s an obvious choice, but The 39 Steps is still the template for any thriller writer. It has all the ingredients to cook up a great adventure story: an ordinary hero plunged into a global conspiracy: a fantastic chase sequence: and a puzzle that has to be cracked to save the nation. Dan Brown would kill for one of the Buchan’s riddles. And the book is written with an urgency and pace that still makes it seem very modern. Written in 1915, it gives the reader an insight into how the First World War was viewed by the people living through it.

Three: Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler: For me, Eric Ambler was really the writer who lifted the spy genre out of pot-boiler fiction, and up to a whole new level. He was a brilliant writer, who also explored the great themes of his day: think George Orwell, but writing adventure stories. Journey Into Fear is his most gripping book, a fantastic story of a fraught voyage from Turkey. The hero is cooped up on a ship, chased by menacing Nazi spies. It captures the tension of the first year of World War Two. It was written in 1940 and has a sense of brooding menace of that year, when the outcome of that war was still very much in doubt, and many people though they were facing decades of the Nazis dominating Europe.

Four: The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes: I'm not sure anyone reads him anymore, by Hammond Innes was huge in the 1950s and 60s. He's really the missing link between writers like John Buchan and the modern thriller. His books are fantastic action stories pitching ordinary men into terrifying conspiracies. The Wreck of the Mary Deare, a story about a ship wreck, is the best of them. The hero is sailing across from England to France, when he comes across an abandoned cargo ship in a storm, with only a mad captain left on board. What happed to the crew? And the cargo? That’s the mystery. Part of its brilliance is its description of the English Channel as a wild and terrifying sea - Innes has the thriller writer’s ability to make the ordinary suddenly seem very threatening.

Five: Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean: Alistair MacLean was the master of a style of rugged, very masculine action adventure story that is probably best exemplified today by SAS writers like Andy McNab and Chris Ryan – and, hopefully, by myself as well. His books were the source for classic films such as Where Eagles Dare, and The Guns of Navaronne. His parse, witty writing style set the template for a whole genre: punchy, direct, but vividly descriptive. Ice Station Zebra is his finest work: a small group of men, battling against terrifying, extreme conditions, and caught up in a global power play. It captures the freezing atmosphere brilliantly, and the plotting is immaculate.

Six: From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming: Much like his alter ego James Bond, Fleming is all about style. With great covers, brilliant titles, and rattling opening sentences, the Bond books are slick, sexy entertainment turned up to the max. From Russia With Love is the best of them (and actually there are some duds in there). The title is, for my money anyway, the best ever put on a jacket. Then there is the opening line: “The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead.” Pure class. The villains are cold and sadistic and the totty, for once, not completely gratuitous. It’s about as deep as an After Eight mint, but a brilliant confection.

Seven: Berlin Game by Len Deighton. All spy fiction is really an extended metaphor for the office. All those double-agents and moles are just ciphers for the guy along the corridor who is trying to steal your promotion. No character captures that better than Len Deighton's Bernard Samson, a middle-ranking intelligence executive, who can't trust anyone. He's meant to be outwitting the KGB, and but he could be any middle-aged man struggling to stay afloat in a big company, betrayed by his bosses as well as his wife. Berlin Game is the first (and best) of the Game, Set and Match trilogy, the height of Deighton's achievements. It has a fantastic twist as well. His wife is the KGB double-agent he's hunting for - a blow to any marriage.

Eight: The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal, Forsyth's first book, gets more attention, but it was with The Odessa File that Forsyth really hit his stride. A story of Nazi-hunting, it is brilliant as both a conspiracy and action thriller, drawing on real historical events and turning them into a compelling story. With it intensive research and tightly engineered structure, it set the template for the modern, lightening-paced thriller. If you want to know how to write an action story, then just read and re-read this book until you’ve figured out what he is doing. All thriller writers operate in Forsyth’s shadow, and this remains Forsyth's best book.

Nine: Bonecrack by Dick Francis: The most consistently prolific of British thriller writers, Dick Francis put his first career as a jockey to good use in his second as a novelist. Nearly all of his books are set in the racing world, a natural arena for tales of corruption and skull-duggery. Bonecrack, from 1971, is one of the best of the lot. A simple enough tale, the hero inherits his father’s stables, and is then forced by a mad Mafia boss to turn his son into a Derby winner. The plot is tuned to perfection, and the book rattles along at tremendous pace. The point about Francis, however, is not the brilliance of any particular book, but his amazing consistency. Forty books over forty years and not a single dud among them. An incredible achievement.

Ten: The Ghost by Robert Harris: Bang up date, super-smart and very funny in places, The Ghost is the best British thriller of the last decade. It has a great set-up, placing its hero close to power, but right on the sidelines, a device that plenty of thriller writers have used, but not often with such success. The plot has the slow-burning, smouldering build up of a great jazz record. And it captures the end of the Blair era brilliantly: the disillusion, and the bafflement, as people tried to figure out how a politician they really liked turned out to be so awful. Historians will be able to read it a hundred years and get a snapshot of what people felt about Tony Blair by 2007.

Fire Force is the second novel in Matt Lynn's action-packed, gun-toting Death's Inc series - get your hands on a copy here.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Instruments of Darkness Review

The lovely Hannah McMillan has been doing work experience with us for the past two weeks. A self-confessed 'historical crime fiction hater' we felt the amazing Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson (published paperback April 2010) could not fail to convert her. Check out her review below:

"Instruments of Darkness is an amazing mystery crime thriller, set in 18th Century Sussex. Historical crime fiction is not a genre I would normally reach to, but after reading the first chapter I couldn't even put this book down! Robertson has combined interesting and unusual characters with a complex and compelling plot - the result of which is an absolutely fantastic page-turner! I would recommend this book to anyone - it is highly entertaining and engaging. You won't be disappointed!"

Now we've whet your appetite, read a sneak preview from the first chapter of Instruments of Darkness here:

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Fresh Blood: Debut writers free online sampler

In 2010, Headline have a really exciting list of debut crime authors and we want to share it with you!

We have got together with the Harrogate Crime Festival to offer you a free downloadable sampler including author pieces and extracts for four fantastic books:

Bequest by A.K. Shevchenko, international intrigue as a modern day London solicitor finds herself involved in a two hundred year old Russian mystery.

American Devil by Oliver Stark, join New York homicide detective Tom Harper on the trail of a serial murderer.

Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson, a exhilarating debut drawing comparisons with du Maurier.

The Levels by Sean Cregan, a dark, urban gothic thriller for fans of Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham and Simon Kernick.

Click below to download your sampler now:

Friday, 5 February 2010

Karen Rose at Number 3 in the paperback bestseller chart!

Karen Rose is one of Headline’s fabulously thrilling crime writers.

I was really excited to be running the marketing campaign for Karen’s new books in January. The darkly chilling Don’t Tell in paperback and Have You Seen Her in hardback seemed like the perfect partner for the FX channel. Karen Rose has been the official sponsor of several top prime-time crime shows since 21st January. Do check out our grizzly trailer below featuring the murder of a beautiful blonde woman by her lover.

We are also a very happy publishing house at the moment as both books have hugely successful: Don’t Tell is at No.3 in The Sunday Times bestseller list and Have You Seen Her is at No.5.

Karen Rose is going from strength to strength and there is just no stopping the queen of crime who truly breaks the rules of thriller writing.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Daisychain by GJ Moffat

The first meeting of the newly formed Headline crime book club takes place on Friday 5th March and the book we have chosen to kick the book club off with is GJ Moffat’s debut novel Daisychain.
After the meeting we will be posting our thoughts about the book but in the meantime the book is published this week and you can find out more about GJ Moffat at his website
He sounds like a nice guy (I like that he lives by the three Rs: Reading, wRiting and Rock!) So give it a read and see if you agreed with our book club findings in March.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Bateman awarded Honorary Degree for services to literature

Crime writer Colin Bateman has been awarded a well deserved Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Ulster for services to literature. This is fantastic news for this prolific and incredibly talented writer. Bateman is the crime writer's crime writer of choice - his blackly comic crime capers have won him critical acclaim and an impassioned fanbase.

His first novel, Divorcing Jack, won the Betty Trask Prize, and in 2009 Mystery Man was selected as a Richard and Judy Summer read and was in the Top 50 Times/WH Smiths paperbacks of 2009. Bateman was also selected for the Daily Telegraph's Top 50 Crime Writers to Read Before You Die.

In his latest novel The Day of the Jack Russell his no-named bookselling/crime solving hero returns. Hired to find the vandals responsible for spraying graffiti on an aspiring insurance magnate's advertising hoarding, he soon finds himself up to his ears in intrigue and battling to solve murders which echo in the corridors of power. With MI5 getting involved and everyone on the hunt for a missing Jack Russell, can Our Man Behind the Counter stay alive as well as keep his world renowned but criminally ignored No Alibis mystery bookshop afloat?

Now we've whet your appetite (and check out the cool cover!) pick up a copy of his latest novel The Day of the Jack Russell here

Evidence by Jonathan Kellerman

When I started working at Headline, my Mum was overjoyed as I would be working on one of her favourite authors: Jonathan Kellerman. I, however, was a Kellerman virgin until very recently when I picked up the hardback of EVIDENCE (out in paperback in March and there will be an exciting marketing campaign - more details very soon).

The book opens with a security guard checking a construction site – a half-finished mansion – for vandals and vagrants. Instead he finds a young couple – dead. Killed during a sexual act.
Enter the wonderful duo Alex Delaware, psychologist, and Milo Sturgis, homicide detective, who set out to solve this intriguing murder. This leads them through the young man’s very interesting love life, into his working life as an architect to a firm that seems very suspicious (check out the scary ice-cold German boss-lady) and into an international conspiracy.

Not only does Jonathan Kellerman write a cracking psychological thriller that will stop you wanting to go to work (do though as otherwise you won’t be afford your crime fix!) but he writes characters that you will want to see again and again. So it’s great that he has a fantastic backlist and some new characters.

As much as I hate to admit she’s right, my Mum was spot on with Kellerman. I hope you enjoy EVIDENCE as much as I did.